That Was The Week That Was

What a week it’s been. Honestly, if you’d have made up this week’s news, nobody would have believed you. So, what have we had?

* A meteor exploded over Russia, quite close to the city of Chelyabinsk. The impactor is thought to have been around 17 meters across and weighed around 10,000 tonnes . This was the biggest such event recorded, over Russia at least, for approximately a century, since the Tunguska Event of 1908. Around a thousand people are thought to have been injured, mainly from flying glass, as the shock wave of the blast blew out windows over a wide area. Around 200,000 square kilometres of glass were shattered by a blast equivalent to 30 Hiroshima bombs. This is clearly the boost in business that glaziers in Chelyabinsk have been praying for. When I viewed scenes like this, the first question I asked myself was – do drivers in Russia routinely have cameras on their dashboards? (Answer – yes.)

* On the very same day as this, no fewer less, an asteroid known as 2012 DA14 skimmed past the Earth, its closest approach some 17,100 miles – closer than satellites in geostationary orbit. We are told that the body was the size of an Olympic swimming pool.  So, had it landed in your garden, you’d have had a swimming pool, instantly,  without all that tedious hanging around waiting for the man with the excavator to start and having skips parked outside your house for weeks, annoying the neighbours.

* Pope Benedict XVI resigned. The first papal resignation in half a millennium has sparked all sorts of conspiracy theories. Dan Brown is reported to be taking notes.

* Paralympic superhero Oscar Pistorius, the ‘Blade Runner’, was up before the beak accused of murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, in his home. Mr Pistorius is alleged to have shot her several times, mistaking her for an intruder. This dreadful tragedy really has the lot – sporting hero, gorgeous girlfriend, violence, death … and sex. The Sun celebrated the incident with a swimsuit shot of the victim, presumably before she had been shot. Whatever one thinks of the ethics of using pictures of hot babes to sell newspapers (a strategy that’s known to work), and granted that to look comely in swimsuits for photographers was Ms. Steenkamp’s job, this tactic is a bit … well … ewwww.

* Despite the recession, there has never been a better time to launch a new scientific journal. Hardly a week goes by without another new periodical hitting the racks. Many of them employ some form of free access. ELife is already out there. PeerJ is another I’ll be keeping an eye on. But very few journals can count on a huge world-beating scoop in their very first issue.

No such problems for new (pay-per-view) DeNovo, which featured, in Vol. 1, Issue 1, a paper on the genome of the Sasquatch, a hitherto mythical ape-like creature reputed to stalk the backwoods of North America.

The researchers sequenced DNA from well over 100 specimens of hair, skin and so on (but nothing readily identifiable as a big hairy ape-man) and found that although the nuclear DNA was very peculiar, the mitochondrial DNA was of human origin. This wholly remarkable and unprecedented circumstance suggests that at some time in the past, these Sasquatches interbred with human women. So, ladies, lock up your daughters. And gents, keep that shotgun handy.

When I first learned of this I couldn’t help thinking how this result resonated with the primal fear that lilywhite women would be violated by a person of some group less exalted and possibly more melanic. Depending on your background and reading material, this person could be black, Jewish, a martian, or even a robot. It put me in mind of the line from Othello where, in the very first scene, Iago teases Brabantio that

Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe.

Meaning that the Moor Othello was having it off with Brabantio’s daughter, Desdemona. Never thought I’d be referencing Shakespeare and King Kong in the same sentence.

Anyway, I am sure that there is a perfectly rational explanation for this anomaly, and I’ll be looking forward to what DeNovo has to offer in future issues.

* The horsemeat scandal runs and runs, notably at the 2:30 at Kempton Park. For those who don’t know, the story over the past couple of weeks is that some meat sold as ‘beef’ in processed foods such as frozen lasagne and burgers has been found to have come, instead, from dead horses. I’ve enjoyed covering this, having had two bites at the nosebag.

* To cap it all, today is World Pangolin Day.

I wonder what next week will bring? Here are some predictions.

* It is known that Rupert Murdoch was never fond of the idea of Page 3 models in The Sun, but was persuaded by the sales figures. Those who’ve read Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News will recall that the proprietor of Newfoundland newspaper The Gammy Bird loved to feature pictures of car crashes in each and every issue. Hey, you’re way ahead of me here … perhaps The Sun will announce that they’ll feature corpses of dead celebrities on page 3. If they are short of copy, I’m sure that people would queue up to nominate celebs they’d like to see dead, mutilated and pictured. They could even print pictures of dead racehorses before they’re carted off to be made into sausages.

* Although some of the rogue DNA found in processed meat will be identifiable as horse, some will be of unknown origin. Investigating the anomaly, scientists will find evidence of Sasquatch DNA, proving that Lord Lucan is in fact the Loch Ness Monster. A paper will be rushed to DeNovo.

* Although meteors will continue to whizz past our ears, there will continue to be no sign of intelligent life on Earth (I am only visiting.)

About cromercrox

Cromercrox is a recovering palaeontologist, author and editor who lists his recreations as writing, beachcombing, playing hard rock organ, supporting Norwich City FC and falling asleep.
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8 Responses to That Was The Week That Was

  1. Laurence Cox says:

    Sorry, but this is what you get for believing what you read on CNN’s news-site.

    BBC News: The shockwave damaged an estimated 200,000 sq m (50 acres) of windows.
    CNN: 200,000 square kilometers (77,220 square miles) of glass were broken

    BBC News: It weighed about 10 tonnes when it entered the Earth’s atmosphere and broke apart 30-50km (20-30 miles) above ground, according to Russia’s Academy of Sciences, releasing several kilotons of energy – the equivalent of a small atomic weapon. [They are referring to kilotons of TNT here].
    CNN The space agency [NASA] revised its estimate of the meteor’s size upward late Friday from 49 feet (15 meters) to 55 feet (17 meters), and its estimated mass from 7,000 tons to 10,000 tons. [They also estimated the energy released as 500 kt - which is comparable with the yield of a Trident H-bomb].

    I think that I am more inclined to believe the Russian Academy of Science’s figures, especially as there was no sign of a crater (just a hole in the ice of a lake).

    For comparison, look at the Barringer meteorite crater which was believed to have been excavated by a 50 metre diameter nickel-iron metorite with a energy release estimated as 10 megatons.

  2. Cromercrox says:

    Amazing. Clearly this tale grew in the telling.

  3. Stephenemoss says:

    It has been noted by perceptive scientists that the tales of horse DNA in burgers etc., should not be taken to infer that the contaminating material is ‘meat’. Investigators may eventually conclude that the contamination is nothing more than equine semen.

    • cromercrox says:

      yuck.

      • John the Plumber says:

        On the subject of yuck.

        In the slaughterhouse, when all that’s edible has been dealt with, anything left goes to the rendering plant – you’ll see skips containing all sorts of yuck parked ready for the off. Once rendered – essentially boiled in a big bucket – the relutant goo has an assortment of outlets – bases for cosmetics like lipstick for instance.

  4. John the Plumber says:

    Sticking to the subject of just queasy yuck. – we don’t want you running for the hills screaming do we?
    Type GELATIN – into wikipedia.
    The author begins with a wondrously polite way of saying, ‘All the crap that’s left in the slaughter house like ears, those kind of bits and …..’ well – er – best use your imagination – it might not be as diabolical as mine.
    Then there’s lovely Cornish Dairy Ice-cream. – Think of beatiful cream, off the top of a churn of milk, fresh from the cow. – Mix with ice in a blending machine till its all nicely – well yummy ice-cream.
    Hang on a minute – that sounds expensive. Now what could do with surplus pig fat if we had a bacon and sausage packing business? – Make ice cream? – Surely not. – We’d never get away with it. – Well I don’t know – we could call it ‘non-dairy fat’ – nobody would notice.
    Hang on a minute – this still sounds expensive.
    Cue the ‘Iron Lady’.
    Guess who thought up the process of putting lots and lots of free air into pig fat, water, and a bit of flavour to give us Mr Wippy, – That’s right – dear old Margaret Thatcher, before she used her airy skills in the political arena.
    The cheapest way to feed peasants is sugar and fat – oh and a round or two of bread – always has been – not too healthy of course – but well – we’re only peasants, – What do you want – cake?